“…I could hardly believe Japan had actually attacked us first in such a remote place, yet the whole country has been first stunned then calmly resolved that now we are going to accept the challenge and get it over. They bombed barracks killing 350 soldiers [the total casualties were 2,403 killed & 1,178 wounded] and some ships apparently from an airplane carrier…The President and cabinet met at 8:00PM. Congressional leaders in later. All but Senator Nye of isolationists’ crowd have come around now. I gave out statement, not a question of who has been right but of unity henceforth. Joint session at 12:30PM tomorrow. Well here it is – war – war – God strengthen us all.”
When bombs fell on Pearl Harbor in the early morning of December 7, 1941, the picture of America, as has often happened, was changed. Having only begun to shake off the burden that was the Great Depression, the country was largely isolationist and determined to right its own ship, letting the world without handle its second great conflagration within twenty years. As was reflected in the above excerpt from Senator Pepper’s diary however, the country as a whole came to a realization very quickly: the war is upon us and we must fight. The outpouring of support and the subsequent rush to military recruitment offices by millions of Americans was unprecedented, with the nation rapidly mobilizing to prepare for the next 4 years of global conflict. Not every action taken in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor was warranted however, as Japanese American citizens of the United States, were taken from their homes and interned in camps throughout the American Midwest and Arkansas.
As we remember the 75th anniversary of the Attack on Pearl Harbor, let us reflect on the lives lost that day and in the years that would follow, let us contemplate the day’s significance in the history of not only our country, but the world, and finally let us remind ourselves of ways in which we can honor the sacrifices of those who came before.
Spring is in the air, the sun is out and that usually means it’s time to find a body of water to sit by and enjoy since we live in Florida. One of those places you could visit this spring and summer (or anytime really) would be the Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park.
This Florida State Park is home to plenty of wildlife including alligators, deer, birds, and of course the majestic manatee. There are guided water boat tours and a spring for swimming where the water is always a nice, cool temperature. Find more information about this beautiful state park here.
The park is named Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park, you might wonder, “who is Edward Ball?” According to the Florida State Parks website, he was a “financier” who “purchased the property in 1934 and developed it as an attraction focusing on wildlife preservation and the surrounding habitat.” The Lodge at Wakulla Springs was built in 1937 as a guest house on the 4,000 acres Ball purchased the same year. In the 1960s’ Ball donated land to Florida State University for a marine lab which is now the Edward Ball Marine Laboratory.
Now you could be wondering, “what does any of this have to do with Claude Pepper?” The former Florida Senator and Congressman Claude Pepper and Edward Ball were like the Cady Heron and Regina George of their time, publicly civil with one another, but deplored each other in reality. Pepper writes about his relationship with Ball in his autobiography, Pepper: Eyewitness To A Century.
Ed Ball was a financier who amassed a great amount of wealth and power due to his family connections. His brother-in-law Alfred I. duPont was one of the wealthiest men in the country in the early 20th century. After duPont’s death in 1935, Ball took over control of the duPont Trust and emerged as a wealthy political dominant force in Florida in the 1940s’. Ball never ran for political office himself, but backed and tried to defeat political candidates running for office. One of those candidates he tried to defeat in the 1944 Florida Senate election and eventually succeeded in defeating was Claude Pepper in the now infamous 1950 Florida Senate election.
The history of these two men is long and extensive and I encourage any reader of this blog entry to read more on the subject. A great place to start would be Tracy E. Danese’s book, Claude Pepper & Ed Ball: Politics, Purpose, and Power published by the University Press of Florida in 2000. These two men played a great role in shaping the political history and future of Florida. I hope this blog gave you a brief summary of their relationship and intrigued you to read more about it.
From his first day as a United States Senator on January 1st 1937 to within four years of his death in office as a United States Representative on May 30, 1989, Claude Pepper kept a detailed personal account of his life as a public servant. During the summer of 2015, the staff of the FSU Digital Library Center undertook the project of scanning each of Senator Pepper’s 48 diaries and uploading them, as well as their accompanying enclosures and transcripts, into the FSU Digital Library hosted in Islandora. Now, researchers worldwide have the ability to search the diaries online and have access to over forty years of commentary on some of the most significant events of the 20th Century.
A perusal of the Senator’s diaries allows researchers to step inside the mind of one of America’s most active politicians and glimpse firsthand his thoughts on topics ranging from the Lend Lease Bill, the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Medicare and Medicaid, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Social Security reform in the 1980s and hundreds of interactions between Pepper and the many influential figures of his day from Eleanor Roosevelt to Tip O’Neil. In addition to this excellent electronic resource, the Pepper Diaries are also available to be viewed in person at the Claude Pepper Library, which opens its doors Monday through Friday from 9:00am to 5:00pm.
Welcome back students, staff and faculty to another Fall Semester here at FSU! Here on campus and around town, there are some really great locations and spaces for learning and engaging with the past. One space in particular is the Claude Pepper Library at FSU. The Claude Pepper Library was established in 1985 as the official repository for the Claude Pepper Papers, a unique and multi-faceted collection of manuscripts, photographs, audio/video recordings, and memorabilia documenting the life and career of U.S. Senator and Congressman Claude Denson Pepper (1900-1989).
Our staff currently consists of Claude Pepper archivist Robert Rubero and archives assistant Mallary Rawls. The mission of the Claude Pepper Library is to support and advance research, teaching and engagement by acquiring, preserving and providing access to collections dealing with the political history of the State of Florida on national and local levels for use by students, faculty and researchers worldwide. The focus of our current major project is the digitization of the Claude Pepper diaries, which chronicle over 40 years of political involvement through the late Senator’s eyes.
At the Pepper Library we also enjoy posting to our Facebook page and enjoy updating our followers through our “Today in Pepper History” posts. More importantly, we offer patrons a firsthand experience with primary source materials from a variety of creators, all giving a glimpse into the political landscape in the State of Florida with a range of over 75 years. The Pepper Library has regularly hosted archives training sessions, class tours and guest lecturers and plans to continue these events in the future. There is also a museum component located in the Pepper Center which chronicles the life of Senator Pepper and is based on his book, Eyewitness to a Century.
Stay tuned for future blog posts as we bring you more great examples from our collections here at the Pepper Library!
Last week, on July 2nd, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 celebrated its 51st anniversary. Originally pioneered by President John F. Kennedy and called for just a year earlier on June 11, 1963 in his Civil Rights Address, delivered from the oval office. In the wake of President Kennedy’s assassination in late November of 1963, his successor, Lyndon Johnson put his full support behind the passing of the act as not only the needed legislation that it was but also as a eulogy to President Kennedy. President Johnson was aware that the Civil Rights Bill would face resistance in the solidly Democratic South, however, there was one Democrat in the State of Florida with a long history of supporting progressive legislation; Claude Pepper.
Early in his career while a member of the Florida House of Representatives in 1929, Pepper alone, voted against a Florida State Legislature resolution condemning First Lady Lou Henry Hoover’s White House invitation for tea to Mrs. DePriest, the wife of the first black congressman since Reconstruction. 35 years later, Claude would again take a stand that many in his state deemed unpopular, and given that his constituency was well aware of his record, the old statesman was inundated with mail correspondence urging him both toward and away from a vote for the Civil Rights Bill.
These letter excerpts, both for and against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, are great examples of the political currents that flowed through the country during the 1960’s as the initial large scale push for Civil Rights in the United States was reaching its height. The correspondence below is dated mostly from February of 1964, when the voting for the act took place.
A firm believer in voting with one’s conscience, Pepper knew that the choice was clear. When the final votes were tallied, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 received zero votes from members from the Deep South and very few from those states on the periphery. The only vote in favor of final passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 from Florida was by Claude Pepper. The following year saw the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and ‘yes’ votes from six of Pepper’s colleagues who had voted ‘no’ the previous year. Pepper realized the significance of extending civil rights to all Americans, and consistently supported such legislation throughout his years in the U.S. House of Representatives.
For researchers interested in taking a closer look at Claude Pepper and his record on Civil Rights in the United States, please visit the Claude Pepper Library and Museum, Monday through Friday 9AM-5PM.
67 years ago today, Senator Claude Pepper and many of his colleagues in the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate along with members of the press and other dignitaries, made their way to Warm Springs, Georgia for the dedication of the Little White House on June 25, 1947.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt built the Little White House in 1932 while still serving as governor of New York, prior to being inaugurated as president in 1933. As a young man, FDR first came to Warm Springs in 1924 hoping to find a cure for the infantile paralysis (later known as polio) that had struck him in 1921. Swimming in the 88-degree, buoyant spring waters did not bring him the miracle cure he sought, but it did bring improvement. During FDR’s presidency and the Great Depression, he developed many New Deal Programs based upon his experiences in this small town. A steadfast proponent of the New Deal and other FDR policies such as the Wage and Hour Bill, Social Security and Lend Lease, Claude was devoted to his commander in chief. When the opportunity to attend the dedication of the now historic site in Warm Springs presented itself, Pepper did not miss the chance. The trip allowed for the attendees to experience a part of the Presidents life that was not widely known to the American public. In an excerpt from a letter to his family written on June 26th 1947, the Senator from Florida wrote of the impactful experience:
“This was one of the most wonderful trips I have ever made. I have never been, you know, to Warm Springs before. About 160 or 170 people went down on a special train. Upon arrival at Warm Springs we were driven to the Warm Springs Foundation area and shown through the Little White House, where the President died, and about the grounds.
Several of us made a trip through many of the wards seeing the patients, talking to the doctors and nurses and seeing the braces which they manufacture for the use of the patients. We also saw the new pool now in the medical area and a few of us went down to see the original pool where the President first began to bathe and where he himself continued to swim until the end.
I wish every citizen could go through this Foundation, not only for the inspiration they would derive from the presence of President Roosevelt that is still felt there but to see the most cheerful, bravest group of people they can see anywhere.”
To learn more about Senator Pepper’s time in office or about our related political collections, please visit the Claude Pepper Library website at: https://www.lib.fsu.edu/pepper-library or come in and visit us from Monday through Friday 9am-5pm!
Last Friday, the Claude Pepper Library at Florida State University celebrated its thirtieth anniversary. Since opening its doors on May 15, 1985 the Pepper Library has provided students and researchers with a place to study and learn, but more importantly, it has provided access to one of the more expansive political collections of the 20th century. In our previous blog post written by Pepper staff member Maria Meade we learned that the original location of the Pepper Library, Dodd Hall, was chosen by both Claude and his wife Mildred for its architectural beauty and the fact that Mildred spent much time there while enrolled as a student at the FSCW when Dodd Hall was the main library on campus having preceded Strozier Library by some 33 years.
Interestingly however, the first proposed location for the Pepper Library was indeed the top floor of the Strozier Library Annex. According to the initial proposal for the library, dated June 17, 1977, “material will be housed on a permanent basis in the Strozier Library…A portion of the top floor of the addition [annex] is being planned to house the Pepper Collection. This space will provide storage, study space for students, an office for an archivist as well as space for a replica of the office or offices of Senator Pepper to be arranged to plans formulated with his assistance.” Sadly, Mildred would pass away from esophageal cancer in 1979, and it was during the two year period before her death that the location of the library would be changed from Strozier to Dodd Hall, further honoring Mildred’s time at the university. Thanks to a $475,000 appropriation by the Florida Legislature, Dodd Hall was renovated for its use as the site of the library and museum. The renovations included the restoration of Dodd Hall’s vaulted ceilings, spaces for the Senators recreated House and Senate offices as well as exhibit and research space.
Dodd Hall would be the home of the Pepper Library for the next eleven years before the collection was moved into storage once more while ground was broken on the site of the new Claude Pepper Center on Call Street. Tune in next week for our post which will give a little history on our current home!
Thirty years ago, on May 15, 1985, hundreds gathered in Ruby Diamond Auditorium at Florida State University for the dedication of the Mildred and Claude Pepper Library and to watch Representative Claude Pepper receive one of his highest honors from FSU. During his career, Claude Pepper forged connections with several Florida colleges and universities. However it was a personal connection to Florida State College for Women (FSCW), and later FSU, which led him to entrust the papers and artifacts from his years of public service to the university. In recognition of his work and long relationship with the school, Florida State President Bernard Sliger conferred an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters on Claude Pepper at the ceremony.
Claude and his wife, Mildred, were a regular presence on the Florida State campus although he had never been in the classroom as a student. Over the decades, they frequently visited the university and attended sporting events and homecomings. Mildred Pepper endowed a scholarship for students in the fashion school. Claude Pepper spoke on campus many times – including giving a commencement address in 1977.
Claude Pepper received the Gold Key in 1938 when he spoke at the FSCW and was later made an honorary alumnus of Florida State University. His 84th birthday party was a gala fundraiser emceed by Bob Hope that raised funds for the creation of the Mildred and Claude Pepper Eminent Scholars Chair of Social Gerontology as part of the Pepper’s legacy at Florida State.
Claude Pepper became connected to Florida State University through his time in Tallahassee and relationship with Mildred, a former student of Florida State College for Women. In the months before her death, Mildred Pepper returned to FSU with Claude to determine the location for the Pepper Library and museum. They decided on Dodd Hall- it had been the library Mildred had studied in as an undergraduate.
In his remarks upon receiving his honorary degree, Pepper acknowledged the credit owed to Mildred as his “absent partner.” He believed Florida State University was a fitting place for his papers and museum because her spirit and memories would always be part of the campus. The permanent home for his work would be a monument to all that he and Mildred had achieved together.
Florida State University President Bernard Sliger invited preeminent politicians to speak about Claude Pepper’s accomplishments before awarding the honorary doctorate. Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, Florida Governor Bob Graham, and Representative Don Fuqua were invited not just because of the seats they held, but because they were friends and close allies to Claude. Governor Graham spoke for the people of Florida about Pepper’s decades of work both for the state and representing Floridians’ interests on the national stage. Fuqua, the representative for Florida’s 2nd district including Tallahassee, welcomed and introduced the members of Congress that had flown down from the Capitol D.C. for the celebration of Claude Pepper.
Tip O’Neill spoke, at the invitation of President Sliger, about Pepper’s tenacious work on behalf of all Americans to protect policies including the New Deal, civil rights, Social Security, and Medicare. They had worked closely on an agenda since O’Neill’s selection as Speak of the House in 1977. In that time, the Speaker had placed Pepper on the bipartisan commission on Social Security and gave him the chairmanship of the powerful House Rules Committee.
Correspondence and other documents from Claude and Mildred Pepper’s work with Florida State University as well as videos of the ceremony can be found in the Claude Pepper Papers held at the Pepper Library. For more than two hundred additional images from the Pepper’s visits to FSU and the dedication of the Pepper Library, please visit the Florida State University Digital Library.
On May 15th this year the Claude Pepper Library will turn 30! Throughout this month and the rest of the year, the team at the Claude Pepper Library will be providing some history and context about the library and its namesake.
“For more than six decades, Florida has been my home.[i]” That’s how Claude Pepper began the second chapter of his 1987 autobiography, Pepper: Eyewitness to a Century. Claude Denson Pepper loved the State of Florida and many of its lively cities, one of those cities he loved was Tallahassee.
Claude Pepper was born in Camp Hill, Alabama in 1900. Though Claude lived an adventurous life where he was constantly working and traveling, he and his wife, Mildred, chose to build a life in Tallahassee for a period of time. Claude graduated from the Harvard Law School in 1924 and began practicing law in 1925 after he was admitted to the Florida Bar. He practiced civil and criminal law at a law practice in Perry, Florida and from 1929 to 1930, Claude served as an elected member of the Florida House of Representatives, representing Taylor County. Claude spent a lot of time going back and forth between Perry and Tallahassee during this time in his life. He served as a chairman for the Committee on Constitutional Amendments and was a member on a number of committees. It was his stand against another Florida representative that led to his defeat for re-election in 1930. It was after Claude’s defeat in 1930 that propelled him to move to Tallahassee. Claude was urged to continue his political path after his 1930 Florida House of Representatives loss by Judge W.B. Davis who told Claude that he needed a, “more visible stage (in) either Tallahassee or Miami.[ii]” Claude was advised by others to move to Tallahassee as well.
“I was urged also to come to Tallahassee by Justice James B. Whitfield, the patriarch and former chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court, whom I had come to know during my legislative days. Often he told me: ‘Mr. Pepper, I want you to move to Tallahassee. Florida needs you and this is the capital of Florida. Tallahassee will offer you an opportunity to serve Florida.[iii]’”
Claude moved to Tallahassee in 1930 and by 1931 he was able to move his family, which included his parents, two brothers, and a sister as well. While living in Tallahassee Claude ran a successful
law office with law partner Curtis Waller. Claude also served on the State Board of Public Welfare. It was around this time he was introduced to Mildred Webster. Claude was stunned by a woman in a “bright yellow dress” leaving the governor’s office, “why that’s the prettiest girl I’ve ever seen[iv]” Claude said to himself before he was introduced to Irene Mildred Webster. She lived in St. Petersburg but was in Tallahassee at the time working for the state legislature. They dated on and off for a period of five years. Mildred helped Claude kicked off a primary senate campaign against then sitting U.S. Senator Park Trammell in 1934 while living in Tallahassee, but he lost the primary in a close election. Nearly two years later in 1936 both U.S. Senators representing Florida died, Park Trammell in early 1936 and then five weeks later Duncan Fletcher died. Claude filed to run for Senator Fletcher’s seat and no one filed to run against him.
Claude Pepper ran unopposed in the 1936 election and became U.S. Senator Pepper. It was also at the end of this year on December 29, 1936 that Claude and Mildred were married. Through his U.S. Senate service (1936-1950) Claude and Mildred kept residences in both Tallahassee and Washington, D.C.
Claude lost his 1950 re-election campaign in one of the most brutal and slanderous elections in U.S. history to George Smathers. After his defeat in 1951 Claude opened up a law practice in
Tallahassee with his law partner and friend Jim Clements. Things were a bit shaky at this point, especially with the law offices in Tallahassee, but Claude stayed close to politics and regularly visited Florida State University to talk with loyal supporters, including the student body president at the time, Reubin Askew. On March 2, 1951 Claude’s law partner and longtime friend, Jim Clements died. Claude’s mother, Lena Pepper and other family members were still living in Tallahassee, but around the mid-1950s Claude and Mildred were going back and forth between all of the law offices between Florida and Washington, D.C.
Claude campaigned for the U.S. Senate again in 1958 for the Republican Senate seat that belonged to Spessard Holland, but Holland won his re-election. The good news that came out of that election for Claude would be that he carried Dade County by 25,000 votes and that weighed in on his decision to run for the U.S. House of Representatives representing a new district in Florida. Claude won that campaign and served his district and country as a U.S. Congressman for the rest of his life.
Claude and Mildred Pepper maintained their close friendships and relationships in Tallahassee during this time. In January 1979, Mildred and Claude attended the Inauguration of Governor Bob Graham. At this time plans were established to build a library dedicated to the life of Mildred and Claude Pepper at Florida State University.
Mildred Pepper died from cancer on March 3, 1979. Claude held two funerals for his beloved wife, one at the Coral Gables Methodist Church in Miami and the other at the First Baptist Church where she and Claude worshiped while living in Tallahassee.
Claude remained active and vigilante while serving in the U.S. Congress. The Mildred and Claude Pepper Library opened here at Florida State University on May 15, 1985. The original library was located in Dodd Hall and moved to Call Street in 1997. Claude Pepper lived an ambitious and productive life of 89 years where he worked hard and accomplished many great things. We’re honored that he chose to spend an exceptional amount of time carrying out that work in Tallahassee.
[i] C. Pepper, H. Gorey, Pepper: Eyewitness to a Century, Orlando, 1987, p.33
This year marks the 74th anniversary of the passing of the Lend Lease Bill, which allowed the sale of arms and material to the Allied Nations during the Second World War, aiding the fight against the Axis Nations until American involvement in the war helped to turn the tide fully. The President as well as like-minded Senators such as Pepper and others, knew that American involvement in the war was inevitable and that American Neutrality would last for only so long. It was to this end that President Roosevelt created the Lend Lease Act to “Further promote the defense of the United States” and it was vigorously promoted by Senator Pepper during 1940 and 1941 leading up to the act’s passage into law on March 11, 1941 with aid lasting until September of 1945. In a press release put out on the third anniversary of the passing of Lend Lease on March 11, 1944, Senator Pepper reflected on the benefits of its passage, which provided some $50 billion dollars in aid to Free France, Great Britain, China and the USSR:
“Secretary of War [Henry L.] Stimson has defined Lend Lease as the “program designed to hasten the day of victory by permitting us to put the weapons of victory into the hands of our allies with a flexibility based on strategic considerations.” All over the globe lend lease material and skills supplied by the United States are slowly but surely bringing the enemy to his knees preparatory to the final blow which will forever free the world from the crushing force of aggression. Everywhere that the Nazis and the Japanese are being defeated in battle, lend lease is playing a vital role.” (Claude Pepper Papers, Series 204D Box 4 Folder 17)
Up to this point, 21,000 aircraft had been furnished to the Allies along with 4,700 tanks and tank destroyers, 100,000 sub machine guns and over one million tons of steel and other metals. Throughout the year of campaigning for the act, the young senator from Florida worked tirelessly for its eventual passage and routinely spoke at events put on by the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies. During one such speech given on June 28, 1941, just a few months after the act passed, Pepper called attention to the dire need to continue American support for its allies abroad:
“They [isolationists] are those who said there would be no war in Europe, if Roosevelt did not cause it. They are those who denounced Roosevelt when he said, at Chicago, that the aggressors must be quarantined. They are those who refused to repeal the Arms Embargo and incited Hitler to unloose the dragons of war. They are those who opposed the Selective Service Act; those who fought against the Lend Lease Bill; who have thrown every possible obstacle in the path of the President, the Congress, and the people who have thus far made some contribution to the cause of stopping Hitler.” (Claude Pepper Papers, Series 203 Box 8 Folder 4)
This vocal support of Lend Lease as well as the Selective Service Act earned Pepper the dislike of groups such as the Congress of American Mothers, who, fearing that their sons would be called off to fight, gathered in front of the halls of Congress and hung the Senator in effigy. The passing of the Lend Lease Bill is widely regarded as an important piece of legislation with regard to helping shorten the Second World War, which exacted a terrible cost on the world from 1939 to 1945. To learn more about Claude Pepper’s involvement during the War Years and beyond, please visit the Claude Pepper Library online, at our Facebook page or in person from 9 AM-5 PM Monday through Friday.